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Critical nursing care staffing shortages must be addressed (Guest Post: Fred Benjamin)

by | April 4th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

nursinghomecare2Fred Benjamin serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Medicalodges, Inc., an employee-owned company that owns and operates over 30 facilities in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, employing over 2,200. This post is adapted from his testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, subcommittee on workforce Protections on March 14, 2013.

Skilled nursing care providers have critical staffing needs. If you are in the business of caring for our nations’ elderly, it is a daily struggle to find enough dedicated caregivers. We are different from other employers in many ways, responsible for the lives of 1.5 million frail and elderly citizens nationwide. And this is the fastest-growing segment of our population.

The general causes of the staffing shortage include chronic underfunding of Medicare and Medicaid, a regulatory system that focuses on fines and penalties, dramatically increased competition for caregivers, annualized turnover rates of nearly 100 percent, and an aging workforce.

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In The Know: Senate considers changing criminal justice reform panel

by | April 4th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a state Senate committee considered changing a rule that requires three members of a corrections reform panel to have a ‘diverse criminal justice background’, to a rule that lets the governor and legislative leadership pick whomever they want.  Some lawmakers are urging the state to develop procedures for post-conviction DNA testing requests, currently provided for in every state except Oklahoma.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column reviewed how decades of new education standards and mandates pile on top of each other with each shift in the political winds, often without follow-through to fully fund them. An important new report by the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center for Oklahoma Policy Institute catalogued the cumulative effect of these reforms.

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Explore More: A new way to dig into our information and ideas

by | April 3rd, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

explore-moreYou may have noticed a new feature appearing on our sidebar recently. On each blog post and publication page, the “Explore More” box allows you to see numerous topics and articles related to the story you are reading. You can look through general topics or find all of the places where a particular person, place, or organization has been mentioned before. For example, the screenshot at the right shows articles related to “Mary Fallin,” accessed from this blog post.

This new feature utilizes “Deep Diver” technology developed by Moomat to automatically index our content, extract specific topics, and categorize each article into the topic areas. Linking together via shared topics allows you to find other content that may be of interest.

It’s all about making our information easier to navigate, explore, and discover. In addition to Moomat, now is a good time to explore our many free online resources. On our website and social media, you can:

Socialize – Oklahoma Policy Institute is active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and, most recently, Pinterest. We invite you to take part in the vibrant, sometime contentious, but always interesting conversation on social media. Follow, comment, and share!

Get the Numbers You Need – The Number of the Day brings you one key statistic about Oklahoma, updated every weekday. With the County-Level Data App, you can easily access data on every county in Oklahoma and statewide. We’ve also prepared a County Comparison Index of factsheets for each Oklahoma county with rankings and statistics on how they compare statewide.

Learn How Our Government Works – The 2013 Legislative Primer describes Oklahoma’s legislative and budget processes and identifies key decision-makers at the Capitol. The Online Budget Guide is an in-depth manual on how Oklahoma’s state and local governments collect and spend money.

Stay Informed – In The Know is a daily briefing on the most important Oklahoma news, drawing from dozens of newspapers, TV stations, and blogs. The Weekly Wonk offers a quick summary of each week’s events, publications, and blog posts by OK Policy. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here to receive them for free in your email inbox each morning.

Read High-Quality Information and Analysis – The OK Policy Blog is updated multiple times per week with new policy analysis. You can also find our many fact sheets and longer reports organized by issue area here, or browse through all of our publications here.

All of this material is provided for free to anyone interested in Oklahoma politics and government, but we rely on your support to keep it that way. If you appreciate the information we provide, please consider making a donation today.

In The Know: Leadership bill to cut Oklahoma income tax stalls

by | April 3rd, 2013 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee stalled a leadership-backed proposal to cut Oklahoma’s income tax, after a House committee killed the Senate’s preferred tax cut plan. A plan to eliminate the state’s franchise tax is quickly moving through the Oklahoma Legislature. The Oklahoma Gazette writes that even as Oklahoma’s haves and have-nots grow further apart, some Oklahoma leaders have wanted to make the state’s already-regressive tax code even more so.

A consultant hired by Oklahoma to look at new ways to provide health-care coverage to low-income people ineligible for Medicaid is studying an Arkansas plan that would channel federal Medicaid expansion money through private insurers. The OU Daily writes that Gov. Mary Fallin’s emails released following an Open Records request show that she put politics before Oklahomans’ health. The Tulsa World discussed the Governor’s clashes with the media over holding back some records using privileges that don’t exist in state law.

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Expensive to be poor: Are we saving the state money by pushing fees onto low-income Oklahomans?

by | April 2nd, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

tax-refund-debitA wide-ranging government modernization bill passed in 2011 required all funds disbursed from the State Treasury be sent electronically. A major effect of this provision is that the Oklahoma Tax Commission will no longer send paper checks for tax refunds. Oklahomans who did not set up a direct deposit for their refunds instead received a pre-paid MasterCard debit card.

The switch was made to save money for state agencies, but critics pointed out that these savings could come at the expense of Oklahomans who would have to pay new fees to access their money. The new costs include a 25 cent fee for using the card to pay bills online, a 75 cent fee to transfer the balance to a savings or checking account online, and a fee of $1.50 per month after 60 days of card inactivity. The cards would also be subject to ATM fees if not used at MoneyPass ATMs, which can be difficult to find outside of Oklahoma City or Tulsa. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, 87 percent of the debit cards issued last year accrued fees.

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In The Know: Teacher gun bill will not advance this year

by | April 2nd, 2013 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a bill that would have allowed trained public school teachers to bring handguns to schools is being held back this year. Another bill that would let parents petition to fire school administrators or turn the school over to a charter company was held over to 2014. House Democrats condemned a proposed rule change that would give the state Department of Education more control over curriculum changes. The okeducationtruths blog writes that the State Board of Education approved revised rules for the A-F Report Cards that don’t resemble the changes submitted for public comment in February and that exacerbate the criticisms of education experts. 

Almost four out of 10 Oklahoma high school graduates who enroll in the state’s higher education system take at least one remedial course as college freshmen. Seven heads of Oklahoma hospitals and hospital systems wrote in NewsOK that we should create an Oklahoma plan to expand Medicaid coverage. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the federal government is showing great flexibility over how states can extend health care coverage with the new Medicaid dollars. Find more resources on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act here.

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Many Sizes Fit All: Feds show flexibility in extending coverage

by | April 1st, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

green lightA key component of the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to expand access to health insurance is providing federal funds to extend Medicaid to all adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit. With the Supreme Court’s ruling last June, the decision of whether to extend Medicaid was left in the hands of each state. The ACA gives states a huge financial incentive to extend Medicaid by committing the federal government to paying 100 percent of the cost of newly-insured individuals for three years and 90 percent from 2020 onwards.

If states do not extend coverage, the result could be a large ‘coverage crater’, where the poorest adults are left uninsured. Failing to extend Medicaid also leaves health care providers on the hook for large amounts of uncompensated care, and adds costly new obligations to employers. Still, the Governors of many states, including Oklahoma, have come out against accepting federal funds to extend Medicaid or have expressed strong concerns.

Now the federal administration is making clear that it is willing to show tremendous flexibility in working with states to find  ways to extend health care coverage to low-income adults. Most notably, the Obama administration has given Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe support in principle for a proposal to use Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance.

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In The Know: Governor releases 50,000 pages of documents connected to federal health law response

by | April 1st, 2013 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Governor Fallin’s office released more than 50,000 pages of documents relating to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but they refused to release dozens of documents, citing exemptions to the state’s Open Records Act that media experts say do not exist. You can download the full records release from the ACLU of Oklahoma here. Governor Fallin signed a bill to allow horse slaughtering for human consumption.

Oklahoma Watch reports that the state’s new third grade retention law could force a large percentage of children from low-income families to repeat the third grade. Oklahoma Policy Institute and CAP Tulsa previously released an in-depth report on the law. Norman parents interested in taking a stand on education policy in Oklahoma have formed a Parents Legislative Action Committee. The Oklahoma League of Women Voters is hosting “FOCU$ on Education!”, a panel discussion about the importance of funding public education in Oklahoma. The state Board of Education did away with an automatic waiver to graduation testing requirements for students who are accepted to college.

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Weekly Wonk: March 31, 2013

by | March 31st, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

 The Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage.  Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know.  Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

An op-ed by policy analyst Tiece Dempsey was published in the Tulsa World discussing why we can’t afford to reject federal dollars to expand healthcare coverage. The Oklahoman editorial board agreed with OK Policy criminal justice reform recommendations aimed at improving a system in crisis, while maintaining a fiscally responsible state budget. Policy analyst Gene Perry’s work was mentioned in Think Progress’ blog regarding Oklahoma’s push to cut income taxes. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how the federal government is showing new flexibility in finding ways to extend health care coverage to low-income adults.

focus-on-educationThe OK Policy Blog explains why two bills that would restrict the amount of bond debt that Oklahoma can take on are unnecessary and could actually make it more expensive. We also shared on our blog a video of civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander’s powerful presentation at the University of Tulsa about mass incarceration and social injustice. Kathy McKean guest blogged concerning a new report that examines 30 years of education reform efforts in Oklahoma. Our blog also discussed Oklahoma’s continued opposition to implementing the Affordable Care Act and the upcoming Oklahoma League of Women Voters “FOCU$ on Education!” panel discussion.

Policy Notes

Numbers of the Day

  • 8.5 percent – Percentage of Oklahomans with a felony conviction, 2011
  • $4.9 million – Amount the state is slated to lose in public education funds under federal ‘sequestration’ budget cuts, the cost of educating 13,000 young Oklahomans
  • 45,002 – Number of low-income households without public housing/rental assistance who pay more than half of their income each month in gross rent, 10 percent of Oklahoma’s renters in 2011
  • 14.7 percent – Percentage increase in the number of murders committed in Oklahoma from 2010 to 2011


Upcoming Event: FOCU$ on Education Forum

by | March 29th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Education, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

focus-on-educationThe Oklahoma League of Women Voters is hosting “FOCU$ on Education!”, a panel discussion about the importance of funding public education in Oklahoma. Panelists include David Blatt from the Oklahoma Policy Institute; Sharon Rodine from the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy; Bradford Williams from Oklahoma State University; Levena Brown, the parent of a pre-K student in Oklahoma City Public Schools; and Terry Graham, a school board member for Burlington Public Schools.

The event will take place on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 6:30 PM at the Springlake Campus of the Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City. You can download a flyer here and RSVP for the event on Facebook here. Admission is free!

The forum will also be videoconferenced at the following locations across the state:

  • Tulsa – Tulsa Community College, Metro Campus, 909 S. Boston Ave, Film Lecture Room, Student Center, 102
  • Lawton – Cameron University, 2800 W. Gore, Howell Hall Technology Building, Room 101
  • Stillwater – Oklahoma State University, Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Room 126
  • Ardmore – University Center of Southern Oklahoma, 611 Veterans Blvd, Main Building, Room 1
  • Ada – Pontotoc Tech Center, 601 W. 33rd, Room 311
  • Norman – K20 Center, 3100 Monitor Avenue, Room 290, Leadership Room

Co-Sponsors of the event include Together Oklahoma, the Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Tulsa’s Young Professionals, STAND for Children Oklahoma, 49th is Not OK, the Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC), the Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and the Oklahoma State School Board Association.


  • Registration – 6:00 – 6:30 p. m.
  • Panel Discussion – 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Question/Answer Session – 7:30 – 8:00 p.m.